Guest Post by Suzanne Hegland
Mothers used to need a little something to keep them awake, but now we need a little something to put us to sleep. According to a recent article in The New York Times, 3 in 10 women between the ages of 40 and 59 rely on some sort of sleep aid at least a few times a week to muzzle that voice in our head relentlessly broadcasting our to-do list–a voice which is only interrupted by operatic renditions of worst-case-scenario dramas of our trivial anxieties.
According to The Times, most women’s insomnia begins with motherhood. Live with the Chinese water torture of an infant’s sleep (or non-sleep) patterns long enough, and your own rhythms can be permanently damaged. Long after screaming infants and restless toddlers morph into sluggish teenagers, mom’s are tossing and turning.
My own insomnia started well before motherhood. I blame it not on an infant, but on a senior citizen – a bearded, white-haired, fat guy. My mother warned me that if I left my bed while he was loitering in our living room, he’d turn on the heel of his shiny black boot and head right back up the chimney from whence he came. And that meant no toys. So unlike most women, my insomnia began in childhood. Although now that I think of it my stress may have been prophetic. I was, after all, anticipating the arrival of Baby Betsy Wetsy – and she would prove to be a lot of work.
Who knows, maybe for some of us there’s a genetic link. My own son – ostensibly one of those languid teenagers – has never, ever slept well. After three months of colic his disposition improved, but not his sleep. “He’s just not a napper,” the daycare ladies would tell me.
What he probably needed was a nice little dose of children’s Benadryl. But we were good parents; we only resorted to that on transatlantic flights. Now he’s lived with the demon for 17 years. I’ve never told him about my Xanax because he’d bug me to share, but the other day when I was putting away his laundry (read: snooping), I found his stash – a half-empty box of Unisom in his underwear drawer. Poor kid. Why couldn’t it have been porn? Or even pot?
Yet according to the study covered in The Times, my son is an anomaly. Mostly? It’s a girl thing. Last year alone, over 15 million women were lucky enough to convince their doctors to bestow a little pharmaceutical relief – that’s more than double the amount of men.
So what are we so damn worried about? Why are the men snoring blissfully beside us? Sometimes after an especially vigorous flip of the pillow from the hot to the cold side, I’ll accidentally-on-purpose elbow my husband in the ribs. (It’s boring being awake alone. I feel like chatting!) He’ll throw a heavy arm over my hip and say, “Whatsa matter honey, can’t sleep?” But before he’s finished the sentence, he’s dozed off. Damn him! And so fretting turns to rage (again, not conducive to sleep).
Is this the price women have to pay for “having it all”? I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar – maybe, but many of us would trade the Roar for a Snore, for the ability to fall into beds, close our eyes, and drift into peaceful, unmedicated sleep. I admit it; I’m a helicopter parent, micromanaging, control-freaking, hot mess. Pass the Unisom.
This is a gues post by Suzanne Hegland. Suzanne is a talented and insightful writer. We are delighted to share her work with our readers. Suzanne is a dean, a mother, a wife, a writer and a friend. She has her MFA from Lesley University.